Update (12.14, 1:38 p.m.): Today the FCC voted to kill net neutrality, so say goodbye to open internet! For now! As Gizmodo reports, service providers have been “softening their statements that promise never to violate net neutrality principles,” so maybe we won’t have to fear fast lanes or censored content just yet. And, for what it is worth, the NY attorney general says he will lead multi-state lawsuit to challenge reversal of net neutrality rules. So, indie artists, maybe all is not lost. We’ll continue to fight.
Original Story (12.12, 4:20 p.m.):You’ve probably seen and perhaps even participated in conversation surrounding net neutrality, but for those still unsure of why or what it all means: On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), led by Republican Chairman Ajit Pai, will vote to repeal net neutrality, giving control of the internet to service providers like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon (a corporation which, as Lifehacker points out, used to employ Pai). Those providers will be able to divvy up the internet in slow and fast lanes; meaning, slower speeds for you, higher costs and less access to, well, everything, especially anything viewed as competitive or detrimental to those service providers.
Beyond being disastrous for you and me as avid internet users, it spells disaster for the music industry—creating a further economic divide between major record label acts who can afford to pay for preferential treatment from the AT&T, Comcast and Verizon corporations of the world and independent artists looking to share their talent on an accessible medium. Closing an open net means eliminating freedom and transparency for all artists—payola has plagued the music business for decades now, so repealing net neutrality is more of the same old disastrous behavior.
So disastrous, over 300 musicians and independent record labels have signed a net neutrality petition at musicforahealthyinternet.org, a coalition between CASH Music and the Future of Music Coalition. Members of legendary acts like Fugazi, Neutral Milk Hotel, Wilco, and Bikini Kill have signed, as has Killer Mike, Downtown Boys, and many others.
Read the full statement below, and sign here if you so chose.
As musicians, composers, producers, and independent labels representing diverse backgrounds, traditions, genres, and communities, we urge the Federal Communications Commission to protect the open internet as a vehicle for free expression and collaboration.
We’ve built careers and big parts of our lives around our passion for music — creating it and connecting with listeners. Today, the internet is one of the primary places this work happens. We rely on it for everything from booking tours to selling merchandise, to collaborating with musicians on the other side of the globe. The fundamental principle of openness online has enabled artists to connect directly with each other and with audiences, empowering us to distribute our work and reach fans in a multiplicity of ways. At its best, the open internet has allowed for a flourishing of diverse voices, allowing to compete alongside the biggest companies, creating connections across geographic barriers, offering choice, flexibility, and creative autonomy.
To truly make good on the remarkable democratic potential of the internet, the fundamental infrastructure underpinning it all must be neutral and nondiscriminatory. Unfortunately, the FCC’s current proposal would amount to a sharp turn in the opposite direction. It would allow big cable and wireless companies to create new pay-to-play fast lanes, disadvantaging those who cannot pay for preferential treatment, and replicating the industry’s past problems with payola. Allowing broadband providers to control this once-open platform shifts leverage away from individual artists, creators, and small businesses, and interferes with freedom of speech and expression.
The implications for free expression also extend to digital service providers. Without strong net neutrality protections, digital retailers will have to compete to better meet the needs of the ISPs that can block, throttle, or slow down access to their offerings. These services should instead be competing to better serve the needs of diverse musicians and listeners. Artists and labels’ choices about how and where to bring their work to the market could likewise be constrained by what the ISPs prefer, rather than what works best for their individual business and creative goals.
Of course, network neutrality alone is not sufficient to ensure a healthy internet, where free expression thrives, creative labor is fairly compensated, consumer privacy is respected, and diverse voices can reach audiences. But it is a necessary foundation for fair competition.
We urge the FCC to sustain the existing, strong net neutrality rules, based on Title II of the Communications Act. The FCC should maintain bright line rules against blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization on both fixed and mobile connections, as well as maintaining ongoing oversight of other types of discrimination.